How to have a magical relationship: Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Last month, we focused on a simple practice for training your mind to be a Financial Master. How did you do? Each month I’ll pick a different topic for this bi-monthly newsletter. If you have a request, please email me. Now on to this month’s focus: relationships.

Those of you who have read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People will recognize "Seek first to understand, then be understood" as Habit #5. Those who know their history will remember that this came from a prayer by St. Francis, the man for whom San Francisco, California was named.

There are countless relationship books out there and endless workshops. Often they provide so much our intellect gets caught up in remembering all the details and we practice none of them. Instead, I like to focus on simple mastery, key little practices that make a tremendous difference. "Understand First" is one of those wax-on-wax-off mastery practices that will forever change ALL of your relationships.

If you are in business, you are in relationships. Great sales people know Understand First is a cornerstone of sales, which is building a relationship. We sit quietly and ask deep questions. They do the talking! Our goal is to understand. We really understand everything we can about the client before we open our mouth. Sometimes, we’ll even go away to really understand what they said before returning. When we come back, we clarify what we think we understand. The client feels heard and we really know how to meet their needs. On the other hand, have you ever sat across from the sales person that wanted you to understand them first? Maybe they came to your door and bothered you during dinner completely focused on their agenda.

We can tell when another person really wants to understand us. We feel seen and heard. This is one of the most important experiences for humans. And now, think of the above situation. Really hearing a client and being heard as a client. Now apply that to your intimate relationships. It feel great to be seen and heard, doesn’t it. The big challenge is, are you really seeking first to understand your loved ones? Are you hearing more that you try to be heard? When was the last time you sat with a loved one and really took the time to understand them, their point of view, their dreams?

This one simple practice can bring our relationships to a completely unimagined joyful place. Really sit there, and just ask questions, very few questions. For some, this can be very painful. They have to make a comment, judgment, try to be understood, or help out. Can we check our understanding? Really listen to the little details and picture what they are seeing in their mind. If you don’t know what they are seeing, then ask. Avoid mind reading. If sitting quietly becomes painful and your mind wanders, just remember what it’s is like when someone you’re talk to is wandering off.

Keep it simple. Just practice one way of improving your relationships. Seek first to understand, then be understood.

An Exercise

Being "present" is one of the keys to understanding others and successful relationships. Being present would mean I’m not thinking about the past or future. Studies have shown people are often too busy thinking about what they are going to say to really listen to the other person. To be more present and get that peace of mind we often seek, just listen closely to the words the other person chooses. Make pictures in your mind of what they say. Try on their experience. Get lost in the story. Take a deep breath and have some fun! Of course, you’d only want to do this if you care about the person and want to keep the relationship with them.
It’s like going to the movies. Notice how quiet the mind gets when we really want to understand the movie, hanging on every word. If it’s boring to listen, maybe you’re hanging out with the wrong people. Or, maybe we’re so worried about our agenda we can’t listen. Just notice where your thoughts are. Are they coming from fear or faith? It’s something to practice. Look for an exploration of fear in a future article.

Using your Inherent Excellence

Relationships are one of the cornerstones of human existence. It’s as important as our health and can determine our health. Our brain has evolved to receive and give language. Only humans have this. Language has only one purpose, to connect with another human. If you know someone that doubts we need to connect with other humans, ask them why we have language.

So many of us are great at giving language. How about practicing the receive mechanism? There are words, gestures, posture, breathing, so much that conveys the message. Let’s exercise that supercomputer between the ears and have some fun listening. See how much you can try on the experience of another person and get a sense for where they are at. It’s magic! Understanding first can transform all your relationships. And it’s free!


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